Minimizing unforeseen publication delays

Reading time
6 mins
Minimizing unforeseen publication delays

Having a well-thought-out publication plan for your manuscript goes a long way in ensuring that you publish your findings in a journal with minimal delays. Unfortunately, getting published is not always a smooth and quick process. The publication process involves many stakeholders, so delays are inevitable. In this post, we discuss some common bottlenecks that can slow the publication process, and offer some practical tips on how to minimize them.

Time to publish — A brief outline

It’s tough to generalize how long it takes for a paper to be published from initial submission, as journals vary widely in terms of their workflows, resources, and editorial decision-making process, but the general flow is as follows:

Initial submission

After deciding an appropriate journal, you must ensure your paper meets the journal guidelines and formatting requirements. This takes anywhere from a few minutes to a few days. Many journals have a pre-screening stage, where an editor checks the paper before sending it to reviewers. This takes from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the journal’s policy and workload. Most papers are rejected at least once before they are eventually published elsewhere. So, authors often need to submit to multiple journals sequentially, each time editing the manuscript for the new target journal—which is a substantial source of delay.

Peer review

This is the most variable and unpredictable step, as it depends on how quickly the reviewers are assigned, their workload, their rigor, and how much they agree or disagree with each other. Here, researchers have little control. Despite peer review usually only taking hours of a reviewer’s time, the whole process can take months. It also varies widely depending on the field and the journal; sometimes, this can be less than a month, while a substantial proportion will take over six months, particularly in fields such as the humanities. It is also common for reviewers to breach their deadlines.

This step also includes an editorial decision, where the editor considers the reviewers’ comments and decides whether to accept, reject, or ask for revisions. Depending on how clear and consistent the reviewers’ feedback is and the editor’s workload, this can take from days to weeks.


Here, you address the reviewers’ and editor’s comments and resubmit your paper. This can take from a few days to a few months, depending on how extensive and complex the revisions are and how fast you work on them. Some journals have a limit on how many rounds of revision they allow, while others do not. This step varies considerably, but it is not unusual for it to take around three months.


Following successful peer review, your paper will usually be approved for publication by the editor. This can take from a few days to a few weeks, depending on their workload.

Production, proofing, and publication

Here, your paper is formatted, proofread, copyedited, and prepared for online or print publication. This can take from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the journal’s workflow and schedule. Some journals may publish your paper online as soon as it is ready (online first), while others may wait until it is assigned to an issue (print first). If there is a considerable print-first backlog, it can take several months.

As you can see, publishing an academic paper is far from quick and easy. Many steps are beyond your control. However, you can improve your chances of getting published faster by choosing your target journal carefully, following their instructions, responding promptly and politely to comments, and being patient and persistent.

Overcoming common bottlenecks and pitfalls that lead to publication delays


Meet all guidelines when submitting papers

To help facilitate submission and review, many journals will list their policies on a page titled “Author guidelines” or similar. These include rules on formatting, referencing, word count, ethics, etc. Read and follow them carefully before you submit your paper to reduce the chances of your paper being rejected or sent back for revisions due to technical errors or non-compliance.

Submit to appropriate journals

You can submit your manuscript to only one journal at a time since simultaneous submissions are considered unethical, so sending your paper to an inappropriate journal can waste weeks of time. You can use AI-powered journal recommender tools (e.g., Global Journal Database by Researcher.Life) to find journals that match your topic, scope, and quality. Additionally, many reputable publishers also provide guidelines on the typical time that each step takes, which can help with your decision. Many journals also mention the submission and acceptance dates for individual papers on their website, offering indications on how long they take to process manuscripts.

Make use of expedited/fast-track peer review

Many reputable publishers now offer a fast-track publishing option in exchange for a fee. This can get your paper peer-reviewed and published online in under two months. Not bad when the explosive growth of papers published means it can take over a year in conventional processes.

However, watch out for predatory journals. Some less reputable journals may promise lightning-fast turnarounds and quick peer review in exchange for a fee, but avoid the temptation, as these often lack a suitable peer review step.

Positively influence peer review

Although you have little control over peer review, you can facilitate the process by suggesting peer reviewers at your initial submission. By suggesting reviewers with good expertise and reasonable schedules, you may be able to hasten the lengthy review process. One caveat: Be careful not to nominate anybody with conflicts of interest, like your supervisor, colleagues, or collaborators.

Communicate smoothly

When you receive an email from the editor, strike while the iron is hot. Communicating promptly can cut down the time taken to make decisions.

When the process appears to be dragging on, a politely worded email inquiring about the status of your submission can also help spur editors into action. After all, editors often deal with heavy workloads, so a friendly reminder can be helpful. Of course, do not badger them for a decision, as this can hinder rather than help your chances.


Publication delays are an inevitable, yet frustrating, part of academic publishing. By following the tips mentioned above, you can minimize causes of delays and increase your chances of getting published sooner rather than later.

Be the first to clap

for this article

Published on: Nov 09, 2023

Helping researchers and English language learners bridge gaps with audiences and embrace new opportunities
See more from David Burbridge


You're looking to give wings to your academic career and publication journey. We like that!

Why don't we give you complete access! Create a free account and get unlimited access to all resources & a vibrant researcher community.

One click sign-in with your social accounts

1536 visitors saw this today and 1210 signed up.